Latvia's government fails to reach majority

  • 2010-04-14
  • By Kira Savchenko

RIGA - After almost a month of speculation and contradictory statements, the opposition party Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way (LPP/LC) declined to join the ruling coalition. The coalition will have to work till the national elections in October, relying on only 47 MPs out of 100, one of who is permanently ill, with another who skips most of the plenary sessions because of sports competitions.

Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era) invited opposition party LPP/LC, with 10 seats in the parliament, to the government on March 19, after the biggest coalition member, the People’s Party (18 seats) left. During the past month the leader of LPP/LC, Riga deputy mayor Ainars Slesers, said several times that the negotiations with Dombrovskis were “very productive and successful.” Nevertheless, he decided to distance himself from the unpopular Cabinet, which had already approved a number of austerity measures.

“It was not a surprise for me,” the PM said through his spokeswoman, Liga Krapane. “This LPP/LC decision will not affect the government, which was working quite well during these weeks.”
Slesers promised to defend the government’s interests, even while in the opposition. However, he already said that his party’s faction in the parliament will not vote for a new healthcare minister, no matter who he or she might be. The posts for Healthcare Ministry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice became vacant after the People’s Party members demission. Culture Minister Ints Dalderis left the People’s Party in order to keep his position.

“The LPP/LC will not enter the government, but will support it in important votes. It looks like this: I do not love the girl, but when I want to, I will [have sex],” wrote Raimonds Vejonis, Environment Minister in his Twitter microblog.
Without the People’s Party and LPP/LC, there are only 47 MPs on which the government can rely. One of them, Leopolds Ozolins, is on sick-leave and has not attended plenary sessions for several years. The other is the famous weightlifter Viktors Scerbatihs, who is often absent because of training and tournaments.
Therefore, the prime minister’s party, New Era, will ask for written evidence of Slesers’ promise, said the head of the parliamentary faction Dzintars Zakis. Otherwise, they will not accept such help.
“There is no value in Slesers’ talks about supporting the government as long as these are just oral promises. A special agreement has to be signed.”

Zakis said there is no suitable partner for the coalition among the other opposition parties because of national ideology. Nevertheless, New Era will negotiate with all parliamentary factions during the next six months.
“We will cooperate with all parliamentary parties, depending on the subject. We will talk to Harmony Center and For Human Rights in Latvia (pro-Russian parties) concerning economic issues. We can come to an agreement with the People’s Party or LPP/LC on the issues of inter-ethnic relations. We clearly understand that sometimes we will be asked for a favor, instead of a positive vote... But politics is an art of compromise and we will try to do our best to survive, even in minority.”

New Era has already started negotiations with possible candidates for the vacant ministers’ positions. They are all going to be professionals, and probably not the members of the parliament or famous politicians, said Zakis.
Dombrovskis’ government is likely to stay on until the national elections in October. There simply is no other possible combination in the parliament to replace the existing coalition, said Aigars Freimanis, political analyst and the director of opinion polling agency Latvijas fakti. 

“Both the People’s Party and LPP/LC will try to advertise themselves before the elections. They can suggest some populist measures, including a decrease in taxes and more cuts in the public sector. I hardly believe they will make Dombrovskis’ government fall, because in that case they will have to replace him. Furthermore, all new taxes and expenditure reductions are to be implemented by the new government in November.”